Sam Bradford: The "Make or Break" Season

USA TODAY Sports

Sam Bradford has drawn quite a bit of criticism over the course of his three year NFL career. We’ll find out whether or not it’s been warranted by the conclusion of the 2013 regular season.

St. Louis Rams’ Quarterback Sam Bradford is entering a very pivotal fourth year of his NFL career. He’s only played two full seasons out of his three thus far, and he won seven games in both. How’d he perform?

Being taken No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft comes with it’s fair share of expectations. Coupled with the fact he was the last No. 1 pick prior to the implementation of the new Rookie Wage Scale, and you’ve got a situation where criticism can be garnered exponentially.

Regardless of your take on the matter, Sam Bradford - with his 6-year, $76mil contract - is the highest paid rookie player [QB or otherwise] to enter the NFL. That’s not his fault. It’s easy to point fingers though, when the team hasn’t been to the Super Bowl and his successor [at No. 1], Cam Newton, will be paid a whopping $22mil over four years.

Without regard to the paychecks being cut, or the [un]warranted expectations, the proverbial statement - ‘it is what it is’ - rings true heading into the 2013 season. Sam’s play hasn’t been spectacular. It hasn’t taken the Rams to the playoffs. And his play hasn’t earned a trip to the Pro Bowl...

What it has earned him is a heaping helping of doubt, and a "make or break" tag prior to the onset of this season. Expectations? In case you’re not familiar, it’s perfectly normal to look at Bradford’s rookie contract, and then immediately equate it to the desired results. At this point, you’ve probably figured out there’s not much proof in the puddin’.

As fingers naturally do, yours may or may not still be extended in Sam’s direction. It’s ok. Each of your digits serve a purpose. Your pointer finger is built to identify those deserving of blame. Point the one next to your thumb at Bradford if you must, but ask yourself whether or not it’s truly warranted.

Sure, QB’s are the prototypical/desired leaders of the offense, make comparisons to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning if you must. I’d argue that Sam was never in a position to take a leadership role in this offense with a personality like Steven Jackson in the locker room/on the field. Regardless, drawing comparisons to two of the NFL’s greatest QB’s is the true injustice. But that’s just my opinion...

As luck would have it, our opinions seem to carry the same amount of weight for Sam Bradford and the Rams organization. For those who care what the Rams’ Head Coach thinks, one of the reasons Jeff Fisher chose St. Louis over Miami wasn’t the weather... It was the Quarterback. A well thought out, calculated career decision, Fisher opted for a play-caller with promise.

Sam and the Rams jumped from two wins in 2011 to seven wins in 2012. It marked the second time in Sam’s young career that he finished a full season. It was also the second time he finished a full season with a losing record.

A "Make or Break" Season?

You’ve heard it. Some may have initiated this phrase after the Rams 2-14 season in 2011. After you’ve lead your team to seven wins in your rookie campaign, it’s not acceptable to slip back into the gutter of the NFL. It happens...and you’re not alone if you’re a fan who thinks it.





And there you have it. Let’s lay the debate to rest. In May of 2012, Bradford restructured his contract - converting $6mil of his $12 base salary into a signing bonus - giving him the money up front. The result: no guaranteed money for Bradford in 2014 or 2015. For the Rams, the decision to retain [or replace] Bradford may just hinge upon his success - or lack thereof - in 2013.

To quote Silva from his Post-Draft NFL Lineup Rankings:

It's put-up or shut-up time for Bradford, who is now surrounded by the best supporting cast and pass protection of his thus-far pedestrian career.
What he’s saying is fair...to an extent. The Ram, prior to drafting Bradford, have not had the quality of coaching staff, nor the surrounding talent on offense that they’ll field in 2013. Then again, the offense will be based more on potential than proven talent.
In season’s past, when the wide receivers and offensive line have been on the opposite end of your pointer finger, it’s been easy to make excuses for Sam Bradford. Just know that while you’ve made excuses for him, he’s made none for himself or his team.

2013 may or may not be a "make or break" year for Sam Bradford. He hasn’t always had control of his destiny, and the upcoming season will be no exception. Luckily, it may just be a year in which he’s provided the coaching - and surrounded with the talent - to quiet the doubters.

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